A disgraced Navy SEAL was sentenced Thursday to 27 years in federal prison for recording himself molesting a sleeping child.
Gregory Kyle Seerden, who was a member of SEAL Team 1 in San Diego, faces the possibility of even more time in prison. He is charged with molesting another child in 2014 in California, and a Navy spokesman said military authorities are reviewing evidence and considering other unspecified charges.
“Instead of being a protector, Seerden was a predator who attacked a sleeping 5-year-old child,” Cliff Everton, special agent in charge of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service’s Norfolk Field Office, said in a statement. “He is the antithesis of every value the military services hold dear.”
Seerden, 32, pleaded guilty in September in U.S. District Court in Norfolk to producing child pornography.
The charge stemmed from an NCIS investigation into unrelated allegations that he sexually assaulted a woman. He has not been charged in that case.
A woman reported that Seerden raped her in January 2017 inside the Navy Gateway Inns and Suites at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story. The woman said she went out drinking with Seerden and began blacking out. She remembered only that Seerden was on top of her in his hotel room and that she told him to stop.
Seerden was in Norfolk for training at the time, court documents said.
NCIS agents got permission from Seerden’s commanding officer in California to search his smartphone and found 78 photos and four videos of prepubescent children engaged in sex acts, court documents said.
The agents determined the videos were created Jan. 2 with Seerden’s phone. They showed a man, later identified as Seerden, touching a sleeping 5-year-old girl with his penis, court documents said. The abuse did not happen in Virginia, but Seerden was prosecuted in federal court here because it’s where the illegal images were discovered.
In court documents, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney David Layne said Seerden’s infatuation with underage children could stem from his own past: He told investigators he was sexually abused as a child by a cousin and by someone he knew through Boy Scouts.
Later, Layne wrote in a court document, Seerden was exposed to drugs and sexual activity by his mother’s girlfriend and his father’s ex-wife.
But Layne said a “troubled childhood” is no excuse for what Seerden did to his victim. In documents seeking a maximum 30-year sentence, the prosecutor said Seerden faces charges in California state court for a “strikingly similar” 2014 incident. A 7-year-old family member alleged he touched her with his “boy part” and took a picture, according to the prosecutor.
Layne said NCIS investigated the allegation at the time, but no charges were filed then because the child’s mother was reluctant to pursue the case.
Assistant Federal Public Defender Keith Kimball said the court should not punish Seerden for the 2014 incident because he has not been convicted of anything.
Kimball asked for the minimum sentence of 15 years, saying the victim “apparently suffered no physical or emotional harm” because she was asleep when the videos were made and the clips were never distributed. He said few people know the victim’s identity, and there is no reason for them to tell the girl what happened when she grows up.
The defense attorney said Seerden, who enlisted in the Navy in 2005, won dozens of awards and glowing performance reviews as he “protected those who risked their lives alongside him, and he risked his own life for the greater protection of this nation.”
But the attorney said life as a Navy SEAL also took a toll on Seerden’s mind and body. In addition to arm, shoulder, leg, foot and neck injuries, he lost consciousness on at least one occasion and was forced to cope with “post deployment paranoia and insomnia,” Kimball said.
Kimball described his client – and many of his fellow sailors – as “functioning alcoholics.”
”Alcohol addiction was unfortunately another outcome that can be largely attributed to his job in the military,” Kimball wrote. “The stress of their jobs caused them to drink more, and they all enabled each other to do so without ever raising any concern about the high level of alcohol consumption.”
A Navy spokesman took issue with the comments, calling them “speculatory claims made about his teammates by a convicted sex offender in a self-serving attempt to mitigate his own sentencing.”
”Mr. Seerden has had countless resources and mandated screenings throughout his entire Navy career to treat any alcohol related issues he may have suffered from,” said Lt. Zachary Keating of Naval Special Warfare Group 1.
Upon Seerden’s release from prison, he will be placed on 25 years supervised release and will have to register as a sex offender. The court also fined him $10,000.
Before learning his fate, Seerden apologized for his actions, saying, “I don’t have any excuses. I only have remorse.”
He said he had always tried to protect those in need, and he knew he had failed here.
U.S. District Judge Raymond Jackson, an Army veteran, said Seerden’s military records reflected a “good” but not exceptional career and were no reason to give him a break in sentencing.
The judge said Seerden deserved far more than the minimum his attorney requested.
“Your crime is an abhorrent and egregious crime,” Jackson said.
©2018 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.